Both Sarasota County and City commissions approve purchases of license plate readers by their respective law enforcement agencies

Sheriff’s Office using forfeitures fund to cover its expense while Sarasota Police Department using grant

This is a Flock license plate reader. Image from the company website

Thanks to recent unanimous votes of the Sarasota City Commission and the Sarasota County Commission, the Sarasota Police Department (SPD) and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) will be purchasing license plate readers for installation in their jurisdictions.

In approving their Jan. 10 Consent Agenda of routine business matters, the County Commission approved the use of $104,300 out of the Sheriff’s Office’s Law Enforcement Forfeitures Fund to buy 24 Falcon license plate readers from the Flock Group Inc., which is based in Atlanta. (The company website features the name Flock Safety.) The cost per unit is $3,000, according to a memo from the Sheriff’s Office, which was included in the Jan. 10 agenda packet. Thus, the total for those devices is $72,000.

Flock’s website says the Falcon is a “[f]ixed, infrastructure-free LPR [license plate reader] for standard two-lane roadways with moderate traffic.”

Additionally, the agency will buy four Falcon Flex models, at a cost of $3,500 each, for a total of $14,000. The Falcon website says the Flex is a “[l]ocation-flexible LPR for temporary coverage that can be installed anywhere in minutes.”

Further, $8,400 will go toward a one-year extension of the data retention of all 28 devices, and another $1,500 will pay for two more battery packs.

Finally, the Sheriff’s Office will pay $8,400 for what a chart describes as the “Standard Implementation Fee” for the Falcons.

The contract covers two years, the chart also shows, with $95,900 cited as the annual recurring expense.

Flock’s website says that the company “is an all-in-one technology solution to eliminate crime and keep your community safe. Our intelligent platform combines the power of communities at scale — including cities, businesses, schools, and law enforcement agencies — to shape a safer future together. Our full-service, maintenance-free technology solution is trusted by more than 3,700 communities across the country to help solve and deter crime in the pursuit of safer communities for everyone.”

In 2022, Siesta Key residents learned after an accident had occurred, knocking the device down, that the Sheriff’s Office had deployed a license plate reader on the northern part of the island. In response to a Sarasota News Leader inquiry, Douglas Johnson, the agency’s creative communications specialist, reported that that device was the only one that the Sheriff’s Office had installed on the barrier island. Johnson added that Sheriff’s Office personnel were engaged in a countywide study involving the license plate readers, to enhance law enforcement capabilities. “We wanted to include Siesta Key as part of the study,” Johnson wrote in a July 25, 2022 email.

An LPR installed on the north end of the Key would capture vehicles going to Siesta Village and the beaches, Johnson noted.

These are more details about the Flock equipment. Image from the company website

During Sheriff Kurt Hoffman’s June 2022 presentation of his 2023 fiscal year budget to the County Commission, he talked about LPRs, calling them “probably the most significant piece of technology in law enforcement right now …”

Hoffman added at that time that the county’s most recent crime wave prior to his appearance that day before the commission had involved individuals from Fort Myers. Earlier in 2022, he indicated, the agency dealt with criminals from St. Petersburg who had driven into Sarasota County.

The sheriff then said that the agency was testing LPRs, with the goal of being able to apprehend individuals suspected of having committed crimes.

During the Jan. 16 regular meeting of the City Commission, the purchase of license plate readers for the Sarasota Police Department was part of the board’s Consent Agenda No. 1.

A Dec. 20, 2023 memo from Police Chief Rex Troche to the City Commission explained that the agency had been awarded a $30,928 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant “to purchase portable PTZ (point, tilt, zoom) video cameras and automatic license plate reader (ALPR) cameras to bolster the agency’s (30) ALPR cameras currently in operation …”

The aid of the technology, Troche pointed out, will “increase the number of crimes solved.”

Then he explained that Edward “Eddie” R. Byrne was a New York City Police Department officer “who was murdered while protecting a witness in a drug case …” The grant program created in Byrne’s name, Troche added, “is the leading federal source of criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions.”

SPD was requesting formal City Commission acceptance of the grant, he continued, noting that no cost-sharing or local match was required.

Neither any of the city commissioners nor any of the county commissioners offered comments on the license plate reader Consent Agenda items. That is the usual practice for both boards, unless a commissioner.

1 thought on “Both Sarasota County and City commissions approve purchases of license plate readers by their respective law enforcement agencies”

  1. There has been a license plate reader on Jacaranda southbound, 50 yards south of 75 (County) for quite some time and another one on Border Road (west bound) just west of Jacaranda, also for quite some time.

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